When I think back to my first yoga class, I wince with a slight smile—one of my girlfriends who worked at a gym gave me a free day pass.
When I walked in the yoga room I greeted my friends like we were in a bar, cracked jokes in the back and was completely oblivious to the fact that I was a total jackass.
Despite my un-yoga-like behavior, I don’t recall anyone shushing me (probably because they’d de-jackassed themselves already). And what was an abrasive, obnoxious, happy hour software geek doing in a yoga class? Honestly, I was trying to imitate Madonna during her Ray of Light phase.
My path to yoga was simple: shortly after Madonna went public with her new yoga habit, I was all over it.
Why? Well, the world can be a judgmental place that sucks for just about everyone.
In high school—one of the most judgmental places ever created—Madonna made the judgment palatable. She gave me permission to smoke, wear half-shirts and fishnets, and do alluring things with my tongue. Over a ten-year period I developed a strut when I walked and threw men away like Kleenex. Madonna had a weird relationship with the whole Catholic thing and I completely and utterly identified with it. Luckily for me, I followed her every trend well into my twenties—which included yoga.
A New Culture
There must have been a part of me that knew, even in the midst of my obliviousness, that I was a jackass. Because I kept coming back to yoga.
Some of these yogis were old; I knew that if these old dudes could bend themselves into pretzels that one day I could, too. And they all looked happy (okay, except maybe Iyengar)—maybe I would be less of a jackass if I were bendy?
And focused on my breathing? Or focused on anything besides men, clubs, concerts and happy hour?
The more attention I paid to yoga, the more curious I became.
Yogis apparently had their own diet: vegetables, fruits and grains that suited my constitution. I started replacing hot dogs with tempeh slices. Cheetos and Skittles became avocados and raspberries. Dove Bars morphed into Fair Trade chocolate and coffee took a back seat to green tea. Yum. And western woman yogis had their own fashion!
Suddenly I was allowed to be sexy-spiritual: comfortable but still sexy! I donned stretchy halter-tops and flowy hemp pants. I felt like I was lounging in my sexy P.J.s all day—sweet!
And, since people don’t go to happy hour in their pajamas, my social habits changed.
As the yoga years went by, I became less obsessed with imitating Madonna and more curious about my body and mind. I wasn’t perfect…but I was less of a jackass. And now I have no idea what her latest song is.
You Be the Judge
Now that I’ve scaled the jackass fence, I occasionally see new yogis in class acting like I did in my first class: loud, unaware, not looking inside of themselves. And when I hear them I smile, because I understand. I can’t help but think that all those non-jackass people in my first class understood, too.
And just about every day for the past twelve years, I roll out of bed and find my yoga mat.
It won’t ever yell at me for not showing up on Sunday. It won’t frown at me or tell me off for not showering or dressing up. It doesn’t call me names and doesn’t know what ‘guilt’ means. It also doesn’t care if I forget it somewhere and cheat on it with another mat, or if we don’t hang out at all one day.
No judgment. Just yoga. If I pay attention to it.
As a student of some fabulously—and sometimes brutally—honest girlfriends, world travel, my awesome adviser, various yogis and yoginis, yogic philosophy runs through my veins and lungs. I am a gradaute teaching assistant at George Mason University, teacher of critical thinking and writing, yoga entrepreneur, paddleboarder, hiker, Buddhaphile, oenophile and smartass.
Editor: Evan Livesay
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